Wisconsin Joins Lawsuit Against ICE on International Students

By Will Kenneally

July 13, 2020

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Students walking on UW-Madison campus

Students walking on East Campus Mall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. (Courtesy: Bill Martens / WPR)

Attorney General Josh Kaul announced Wisconsin will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia in suing the federal government over immigration policy that could bar some international students from studying in the United States.

The policy prohibits international students from entering the country on student visas if their courses are held entirely online due to the pandemic.

“This unlawful policy pressures colleges and universities to provide in-person instruction regardless of whether it’s safe to do so and threatens to cause further harm to our economy,” Kaul said in a statement.

As universities face economic concerns in a pandemic-caused recession, international students–who often pay higher tuition rates–could present a lost economic and educational opportunity if they choose to miss out in the fall semester. According to the attorney general, international students account for as much as $189.6 million in tuition costs across five system campuses.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said she would continue to advocate for international students and that the campus’s hybrid model of in-person and online education would allow international students to remain in the country.

“These students are valued members of our community, and we will continue to support and advocate for them,” she said.

The university system announced in June that it would commit to having students on campuses in the fall with public health guidelines in place–like moving large lectures online.

The system’s new interim president, former governor Tommy Thompson, said in a statement Monday that he believes that the system’s hybrid education model would ensure international students could remain on campus if the new immigration rules are upheld.

“International students are welcomed here at the UW System. We fully support the Attorney General’s action today joining the lawsuit challenging the ICE rules regarding international students,” Thompson said.

According to a release from the attorney general’s office, the suit comes ahead of an August 4 deadline by which universities must certify that each international student’s coursework contains at least some in-person instruction. The civil complaint was filed Monday in federal court in Massachusetts.

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